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Group photo of the UC Boulder team members for Solar Decathlon 2020.

U of Denver: University of Denver

The University of Denver (DU) is demonstrating a renovation of a single-family home for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon® 2020 Build Challenge. The 1950s ranch-style home that serves as DU's competition entry is in a 100-year floodplain, challenging the team to develop a cost-effective plan that follows Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines. In addition to transforming this home into the modern age, the students are providing the community with an example of budget-conscious options available to floodplain homeowners who are interested in updating their existing infrastructure.

Design Philosophy

CampusCraft incorporates design innovations that reduce the home's negative impact on the environment while also providing maximum comfort for the eventual occupants. By incorporating recycled wood into the home, the updated design has an earthy feel and sustainable aspect. A dead tree on the property that had to be removed now complements the home's decor through an accent wall, while also gaining new life as landscaping mulch. Recycled cabinets that were touched up and modernized also add to the overall aesthetic of the home. The interior design is united with an aquaponics system built by DU's engineering team. This complete ecosystem is a central feature of the renovated home, acting as the centerpiece of the kitchen and living room.


The target client for the DU house is a homeowner seeking to renovate their home with energy efficiency in mind, all within a reasonable budget. The ideal clients are curious about the latest technologies and methods for transforming their little corner of the world. CampusCraft supports residents who are not looking to move into a brand-new home, but rather live in one with character and charm that just needs to be brought into modern times.



    • All components selected minimize power consumption, resulting in a power draw roughly equivalent to a standard size refrigerator
    • Reinforced piping to prevent leaks and avoid potential flood risks
    • Shelving unit constructed from salvaged barnwood and cast-iron piping
    • Aquaponics system mimics a natural ecosystem by using the waste outputs of one system as inputs to the other
    • RetroFoam insulation used in the home has higher R-value, eliminating drafts and air leaks
    • An air barrier solution sprayed into the building area conjugates and seals holes with no harmful chemicals.


    Aquaponics System

    The CampusCraft aquaponics team is constructing a low-energy aquaponics system to provide the future occupants of the Solar Decathlon house with an organic, sustainable food source to supplement their diets. The primary goal of aquaponics is to mimic a natural ecosystem by using the waste outputs of one system as inputs to the other. For example, the fish excrete waste into the water. This water is then pumped into the grow beds where the waste is broken down into nutrients for the plants to grow. The plants in turn purify the water and reoxygenate it to be sent back to the fish, completing the cycle.

    This system features three primary subsystems:

    • The Grow Subsystem
    • The Aquatic Subsystem
    • The User Interface.

    Two grow beds have been selected to maximize growth capacity and to increase crop variety. Potential crops include strawberries, spinach, and kale. A 75-gallon fish tank was selected, capable of housing 12–16 tilapia. This large tank will allow for a more stable system that is less affected by fluctuations in the system changes, such as temperature. To continuously monitor system variables, such as temperature and pH, a Bluelab Guardian Monitor Connect was selected to record data. These data can then be analyzed to determine trends in the overall health of the system.

    Retro Foam Insulation

    Traditional wall insulations, such as fiberglass and cellulose, can break down while also trapping dust and moisture. Over time, walls settle and air leaks into the home, causing the HVAC system to work overtime and increasing the occupant’s energy bills. RetroFoam has a higher R-value than standard wall insulation, and impressively maintains that R-value at any temperature while eliminating drafts and air leaks. Reducing drafts not only increases the occupant’s comfort, but it also increases their savings with more cost-effective heating and cooling bills. As an added bonus, RetroFoam does not break down over time.

    Air Barrier Technology

    AeroBarrier is a solution that is sprayed into a building area to seal holes as small as a hair follicle with no harmful chemicals. GREENGUARD certified, this product contains no harmful or toxic chemicals. The sealing process is controlled by computer, allowing the homeowner to view the sealing results in real-time.